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WW1 Irish remembered: John Mulalley (20) died three months after signing up to fight in the Great war


Private John Mulally

Private John Mulally


Private John Mulally

IT'S difficult to fathom. But Private John Mulalley from Newcastle, Enfield, Co Meath was just 20 years old when he died in Flanders, Belgium as WW1 was just beginning - and less than three months after he entered active service to fight the enemy with the Connaught Rangers.

His date of death was November 7, 1914.

He was the son of James and Mary Mulalley, of Newcastle, Enfield, Co Meath and like many others he was buried without a grave in Flanders thousands of miles away from home.

John was killed during the first battle of Ypres and his name is listed on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial alongside more than 54,000 officers and men.

He had signed up to the British army in 1912, the same day as his brother Peter - Peter survived the Great War which lasted from 1914 to 1918.

His niece Marie Maher (80) paid tribute to him today (see video) in tandem with the launch of a new archive - "Ireland's Memorial Records' - the online digital archive of Ireland's First World War records which lists all those from the island of Ireland who died in Belgium during WW1 or who died in Belgium as result of injuries sustained during battle.

She said the family never actually found out how he died but a telegram was sent to the family home in Enfield.

"They said he lost his head...when he stood up," Marie added.

Marie said that that because of Ireland's complicated history with our nearest neighbours and the emergence of the Civil War, John's short life and his involvement in WW1 was not really discussed at home when she was growing up.

"You couldn't talk about the war and they couldn't come home in uniform," Marie said.

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However, she welcomed the openness that time has allowed and the fact that the subjects of both WW1 and WW2 are now more freely discussed and those who perished are being remembered and celebrated.

"I think in the past few years people have opened....it's only right.....it's what happened," she added.

She also said that a trip to Belgium in memory of her uncle made her feel very close to him and proud of him although she added that the gravity of the war was palpable as she travelled around the region with her daughter and son-in-law.

The new records are part of a much larger project at In Flanders Fields Museum called The List of Names.

The latest project, which is a joint collaboration by the In Flanders Fields Musuem, Google and the Department of Foreign Affairs, shows that 11,060 of the 49,000 Irish men who perished in the First World War actually died or were buried in Belgium and not in France as previously recorded.

Piet Chielens, Co-ordinator, In Flanders Fields Museum, who was in Dublin for the launch, said:  “Commemoration is about sharing human experiences and fates, and reflecting on them. This project online commemoration allows people from all over the world to connect with a shared past.” 

There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million were wounded during WW1 making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

The death numbers include about 10 million military.

On the Allied side, or the Entente Powers - about six million soldiers were lost while the Central Powers lost about four million.

Up to two million died from disease and six million went missing, presumed dead.

Late last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister David Cameron paid their respects at sites across Flanders in Belgium in what the Irish Government described as the latest "key milestone" in deepening British-Irish relations.

In a poignant moment, they laid wreaths at the grave of Irish nationalist William Redmond.

Known as the "lonely grave" after he requested to be buried outside the British military cemetery at Locre in response to the Easter Rising executions, the site is seen as an emblem of the alienation Irish Catholics felt from their countrymen at that time.

Captain Redmond died aged 56 after going over the top in the 1917 battle of Messines.

The visit was part of the decade of centenary commemorations of key events between 2012 and 2022.

For access to the latest online digital archive, log on to  http://imr.inflandersfields.be/search.html - you can type in a name and see the place of birth, rank, regiment, service number, date of death and place of burial/ commemoration of each individual solider with that name, where the information is available.




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